Since I’ve been hanging with my family this week, it occurred to me that it would be fun to ask my dad a few questions about feminist fathering. We have so many examples of anti-feminist fathering around, but it’s rare that we hear from a dad who is truly committed to egalitarian parenting and gender justice. The other thing that makes my dad sort of unique is that he has all the trappings of a traditional dude–white, middle-class, retired lawyer, raised Catholic, likes to talk about the weather and wear embarrassing outfits to bicycle around town–but will surprise you when he drops some serious feminist insights. (He also hasn’t updated his slang since the 80′s, thus the subtitle of this post.) Read on…
Courtney: Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
Ron: Yes, because I believe in equality in all respects.
Courtney: How do other men react to your feminist identity?
Ron: At first, I found it odd to own the identity among other men, but after awhile it became clear and comfortable. I am guessing that other men may feel the same. I think some men would never call themselves a feminist because they would view, wrongly, that it would mean that they are feminine, and at all costs, do not want to feel that.
Courtney: What do you think are the essential ingredients of feminist fathering?
Ron: Teaching your sons and your daughters that gender should never be a barrier to anything that you want to do. [My dad resigned from the men's only business club in my town when I was a little girl, citing that he didn't want to be a part of any institution that would one day accept his son but not his daughter.] In addition, you have to not only say the right words but you have to live those words. It is particularly important with your daughter, just like your son, to praise them for their minds and intellect, because the world will still tend to only comment on their physicality.
Courtney: What would your advice be to young men who are embarking on fatherhood today?
Ron: They should know that today it is much more likely that their daughters can succeed in what has been a “man’s world,” to achieve whatever they wish to achieve, where in years past, I know that I had some doubt in my own head that that could really happen. I think it is extremely important for men that inspite of getting little or no support at work for spending time with their families that you make sure that you don’t miss the soccer or baseball games of your children. In addition, it is also important to work to change the environment at work to make sure that all men and women feel comfortable leaving early to make sure that they are an active presence on a daily basis in their children’s lives. [At my dad's firm, he was instrumental in getting paternity leave instituted.]
Courtney: Anything else you want people to know?
Ron: Even as it feels like your children are growing quickly, they’re actually growing much faster than you even imagine. It makes it all even more important to spend all the time that you can with them.